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How to Set Up Your Google Plus Freelancer Account

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So you've decided to take the plunge into Google Plus? Good for you!

The first thing you must do is set up your Google Plus freelancer account. In this article, I'll guide you through the basics of setting up both personal and business Google Plus accounts. I'll give some technical tips, but my general focus will be on marketing. For the most part, once your account is set up, I'll assume you can navigate your way around Google Plus, especially given the guidelines and tips Google provides.

Let's get going and fire up your freelance marketing with some Google juice!

Personal or Business?

Google offers two options for freelancers: personal accounts and business pages.

In my opinion, a personal account is enough for most freelancers, particularly given the options Google Plus provides for separating your personal and professional life.

That said, a business account is a good idea for some freelancers. Let's take a quick look at both.

Personal accounts work well if:

  • Your real name is your business name.
  • You find new clients through networking with both personal and professional connections.
  • You're a freelance writer who wants to claim official authorship of your articles on Google.
  • You're a solopreneur who does minimal subcontracting.

As personal accounts feature a picture of you rather than your business logo, they also have a higher authenticity factor than business accounts. Social media is all about being social, and most of us like to engage with real human beings, not faceless businesses.

On top of that, every Google Plus user must have a personal account. That means to create a business page you must have a personal account. It's a good idea to get your personal account looking spic and span before moving on to creating a business page.

Business pages work well if:

  • You trade under a brand name, rather than your own name.
  • You work with local clients, and will benefit from being listed with Google Local.
  • Your logo is an important part of your brand identity.
  • You run an agency, rather than being a solopreneur.

Whether or not you create a business page, you must set up a personal account, so let's look at how to do that.

Setting Up Your Personal Profile

To get started, visit the Google Plus home page. If you already use Google services, such as GMail or Google Calendar, or if you have an Android smartphone, you can log into your account and get started. If this is your first foray into Google, you'll need to set up an account, which takes a couple of minutes.

Once you're ready to get started with Google Plus, you'll first be asked to add connections into your Google Plus circles. If you've been using GMail for a while, Google will have a good idea of who your friends are, because it knows who you email. Add as many people as you want to. I'll be explaining more about circles in another article, so if you want to hold off, then select continue.

Next you'll be taken to the following page:

It's a good idea to enter your job title and your business name, as you'll be using your profile to promote your business. You can also upload a photo of yourself. The recommended size is 260x260 pixels. Choose a picture of yourself, smiling.

Hit finish and you'll be taken to the Google Plus homepage, which looks similar to the Facebook timeline. You'll see updates from people in your circles.

On the right hand menu, beneath "Home", select the "Profile" option. Here you can edit your Google Plus profile, including your tag line, about page and cover photo. If you'd like to add a cover photo, you can do so now by hovering your mouse over the cover photo area, and clicking. More on that later.

Note: for your personal profile, you can only use your real name. If you want to use your business name, or you're a writer who uses a pen name, you must set up a business page.

How to Create a Google Plus Business Page

With your personal account set up, you're ready to create a business page. To do this, visit Create a Page.

You'll first be asked to choose your Page type:

  • Local Business or Place is the best option for freelancers whose clients are mainly local, or who are based in a physical location, such as an office.
  • Company, Institution of Organization is the best option for other freelancers. Google asks you to select a sub-category. "Professional Services" is a good fit for many freelancers; "Consulting and Business Services" works well for B2B freelancers.
  • You can use Arts, Entertainment or Sports to create a page to promote a blog, book or music album.

After you've selected the Page type, you'll be asked for your page name and website. Use your business name as your page name.

Next, you'll be asked for a cover photo, logo, 10 words to describe your page, and your business email address. When you're writing the ten words, you can use your businesses tag line. If you don't have a tag line, keep the 10 words customer focused. Describe what you do (e.g. graphic designer, copywriter, programmer) and how you help your clients.

Your page is finished. To switch between your Page and your Personal Profile, use the "identity" button in the top right.

Choosing the Right Images for Your Google Plus Profile

Your images are the first impression potential clients will get of your business when they visit your Google Plus profile or page.

Your profile picture or logo is your face to the world. When your updates appear in your contacts' news feeds, your profile picture will appear alongside them. Choose a picture of yourself, smiling. This builds trust, because it shows you’re a human being your network can relate to and engage with. As Sam Horn writes in Concrete Confidence:

The very first step to establishing a positive response in another person is to flash them a genuine, heartfelt smile. [...] Simply said, it’s hard to dislike someone who smiles at you.

That's just as true online as it is in the real world.

If you're a business using your logo as your profile image, make sure your logo looks good cropped to a square. If not, get your logo designers to put together a square version of your logo.

If your profile picture is your face to the world, then your cover photo is your chance to share your brand identity. Unlike Facebook, which has strict rules around how you use your cover photo, Google Plus has some simple guidelines:

  • Use your common sense (no hate speech, bullying or sexually explicit material)
  • Don't use it to run contests or promotions direct from your page

Other than that, you're free to do what you like. Top tips include:

  • Choosing an image that reflects your brand identity. If you work with banks or health care, you want to convey gravitas. You take your job seriously. Do you help corporations loosen up and engage with their customers? Choose a playful or creative image. If you're looking for creative examples, check these out.
  • You can use your image to say what you do. If you're a writer, consider an image of a pen or a typewriter. If you're a childcare professional, have toys or smiling kids (get permission first!). Landscape gardener? Think flowers or garden tools.
  • As Google has no restrictions on text in cover images, you can use it to display your business name or logo, or a call to action, such as asking people to put you in their circles or to visit your website.

Writing Your Tag line and About Page

If you've made your images attractive, prospects will want to read about who you are to find out more. Be sure to choose words that pull the right clients into your business.

Your About Page is where your clients get to see who you are and what you do. On Google Plus, you choose which sections of your about page different contacts get to see. That means you can have a different About Page for your clients compared to the one seen by family and friends.

Your tag line is ten words, and it's the most important copy you'll write on Google Plus. Get it right, and prospects will be curious to know more about you. Make it a short, simple summary of what you do and how you help people.

Next, you need to write an introduction to your business.

  • Keep it audience focused. Let people know how you help them. What problems do you help your clients solve?
  • Use the everyday language of your clients rather than business jargon. Short sentences and words work best.
  • Sprinkle keywords through your copy. This gives search engines a clue to what you do, and makes it easier for people to find you if they're searching for your services.
  • Include a list of your products and services.

You're Good to Go

That's it! You now have a face to the world on Google Plus, and you've made it as easy as possible for potential clients to find you.

The basics are done, and you're ready to engage.

In future articles, I'll show you how to use Google Plus for networking, who you should add to your circles, what to post in your Google Plus updates, and how to use Google Plus as an SEO tool.